Brian Bevan and Ken Irvine both deserve NRL immortal status

David Lord Columnist

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    Australia's Luke Lewis, left, is tackled by England's Michael Shenton during their Four Nations Final rugby league match. AP Photo/Jon Super)

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    Legendary rugby league scribe Ian Heads reckons Brian Bevan should be the next Immortal. His comment was reported yesterday by Phil Rothfield in the Sunday Telegraph, and Heads is spot on.

    He was editor of Rugby League Week where the ‘Immortal’ status was born in 1981. It’s not an official recognition by the ARL or NRL, but taken as read by the league fraternity.

    Clive Churchill, Reg Gasnier, Johnny Raper, and Bobby Fulton were the first recognised. Graeme Langlands and Wally Lewis joined them in 1999, and Artie Beetson in 2003. It’s high time the seven was increased.

    Bevan was a freak in the nicest sense of the word.

    His 796 tries, the bulk of them for Warrington, in a career that spanned from 1942 to 1964 is the undisputed world record for either rugby code, a binocular distance ahead of the previous record set by another winger – Englishman Alf Ellaby’s 446 – with St Helens and Wigan from 1926 to 1939.

    Despite his frail frame being bandaged from hip to toe, Bevan was blessed with blistering speed, and dancing feet, scoring a hat-trick 100 times, and twice scoring seven tries in a game. Phenomenal stats.

    He is the only rugby league player in history to be inducted into both British Hall of Fame in 1988, and the Australian Hall of Fame in 2005.

    Bevan, born in Sydney on June 24, 1924 – died in Southport, England on June 3, 1991 – aged 66.

    To add fuel to the Heads fire, Bevan was selected on the wing in the Australian Team of the 20th Century. His wing partner in that side – Kenny Irvine – should have been made an Immortal long ago.

    Irvine is still the record try-scorer in Australia, despite being retired for 39 years, with 212 from 236 games for North Sydney and Manly in a career that spanned from 1958 to 1973. He died of leukemia in 1990, aged 50.

    He was a superbly balanced athlete. His speed best shown when he won the Dubbo 100 yards event in 1961 in 9.3 seconds to equal the world professional record, and at the same meet won the Dubbo Gift over 120 yards from a yard behind scratch.

    Irvine was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004, that too was long overdue.

    Brian Bevan and Kenny Irvine, two champion wingers who could motor faster, and touch down more, than any of their peers.

    Immortalise them both at the same time.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn?t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world?s great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (41)

    • April 23rd 2012 @ 7:43am
      sheek said | April 23rd 2012 @ 7:43am | ! Report


      I have mixed feelings whenever I hear Brian Bevan’s name being put forward.

      It has nothing to do with his ability – the guy was purely a freak of awesome proportions. But when Bevan was named in the Kangaroos ‘team of the century’, he did so without playing a single test for Australia.

      Ordinarily & technically, this should disqualify him, the fact he never played a test for Australia. It was his choice, for whatever reasons, to play in England & deny himself the opportunity to represent his country, which he would have done so had he remained in Australia.

      Furthermore, my understanding of immortal status, is that you must be ‘alive’ at the time of nomination. but I’m happy to be proven wrong on this.

    • April 23rd 2012 @ 8:13am
      The Greatest Game Of All said | April 23rd 2012 @ 8:13am | ! Report

      Since the creation of the Team of the Century, the Immortals have become irrelevant, it is now a waste of time to induct any more.

      Any player inducted from now will have already been selected into the Team of the Century, 10-15 years from now, we are going to have the same 17 in either “club”. Anything different would be hypocritical, and stupid.

      Surely we cant just pick players whenever we feel like it, or whenever RLW needs to sell more units, cos thats what its really about at the end of the day isnt it.

      IMO, its the players that we leave out (Sterling, Meninga, Rogers, Coote, Provan, Johns, Langer) that makes the Immortals truly great.

      • April 23rd 2012 @ 9:16am
        mushi said | April 23rd 2012 @ 9:16am | ! Report

        Clearly all the talk of the immortals suggest they aren’t irrelevant.

        • April 23rd 2012 @ 9:43am
          The Greatest Game Of All said | April 23rd 2012 @ 9:43am | ! Report

          Do you work for Rugby League Week mushi?

          • April 23rd 2012 @ 4:16pm
            mushi said | April 23rd 2012 @ 4:16pm | ! Report

            Oh good one. Sadly no.

            I failed the test by knowing the meaning of the word irrelevant.

            There may just be an opening for you though?

          • April 23rd 2012 @ 5:02pm
            mushi said | April 23rd 2012 @ 5:02pm | ! Report

            To expand you’ve got two main problems:

            First is the irrelevance. If something is being discussed regularly especially under the assumption of being perpetuated it clearly it is relevant. That is what the word means. You either have the wrong word or a failed argument.

            Then there is the argument that they will be the same as the team of the century or it would be hypocritical is flawed.

            First the selection criteria which automatically rules it out as they start out comparing different eras. Two members of the team of the century cannot make the immortals.

            Second is the time frame. Stop and think for a second about how often immortals are inducted. It has been on average about one every 7 to 8 years. The last was 9 years ago. So if we say the RLW starts to milk this and goes every 6 years you realise that it will be 54 years from now before they’ve filled out the 17 players that you say “must” be the same as the team fo the century.

            In other words you will say that we must ignore every players who’s peak will come in the 60 years post the team of the century being announced? Really you think that is the logical outcome?

            Third is that the team of the century is position based and even then they struggled filling the bench with two 5/8s and a fullback.

            I think it is fair to say that the dominant ball players are and will continue to be over represented in any list of the top players no matter where you set the bar, so making giving it a position restriction defeats the purpose.

            • Roar Guru

              April 23rd 2012 @ 5:43pm
              steve b said | April 23rd 2012 @ 5:43pm | ! Report

              Thanks Mushi you said everything i wanted to say but had no idea how to say it .I try but i am not real good at putting it all together . Writing was never my strong point , not a bad concretor though . cheers well said

            • April 23rd 2012 @ 5:55pm
              The Greatest Game Of All said | April 23rd 2012 @ 5:55pm | ! Report

              If youve been paying attention to the media youd know they are now talking about a four year induction cycle and having multiple inductees.

              The last time they had the next Immortal discussion, Rogers, Provan, Sterling, all the greats were tossed up but were beaten by Beetson, if they werent good enough then, why are they good enough now? Does this mean they are all eventually going to be inducted?

              • April 24th 2012 @ 8:13am
                mushi said | April 24th 2012 @ 8:13am | ! Report

                Okay so you have a problem with the rumoured changes to the immortal system not the immortal system itself? This is completely different to your opening comment.

                On this we agree. It needs to remain exclusive – though I do find it odd that a guy who hates RLW so much is putting so much stock in reports that stakeholders want blah blah blah and RLW is just going to sign over the rights to them.

                Still that aside your solutions still says no player post 2007 should ever be formally recognised. Never ever ever. Rugby league ceased to exist as a noteworthy sporting pursuit with Andrew Johns.

                Now many Novocastrians would agree with that but the general rugby league public probably think the game’s still survived.

                That is the “relevant” method of honouring players – ensure that gradually not a single living soul will have seen one of these players in the flesh?

                The if you missed out once your done rule also seems very arbitrary. It should be exclusive but not to the point of lunacy. You would actually end up with a less exclusive club as the only way you could be considered is to be so ordinary that you weren’t considered last time.

                Pretty soon we’ll have Greg Florimo and Pat Jarvis under this selection method.

              • April 24th 2012 @ 9:52am
                The Greatest Game Of All said | April 24th 2012 @ 9:52am | ! Report

                False, I never once said that I hated RLW, your words, just said that this just a promotion to sell more magazines, just because we disagree with our parents sometimes doesnt mean that we hate them.

                As far as Andrew Johns, Flo and Pat Jarvis are concerned, read my comments just below re: post 2007.

      • Roar Guru

        April 23rd 2012 @ 9:47am
        steve b said | April 23rd 2012 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        What are you for real ! their are so many great players in years gone by we talk about the later guys a lot but i can remember as a kid watching some great players . It must be hard for the selection commity to work them all out , who really fits the bill as immortal and everyone has their favorites you say Langer what about Billy Smith who played for the saints for everyone thats picked another one comes to mind . It should never become irrelevent and Im bloody sure it has nothing to do with selling more RLW . GET A CRIP !

        • April 23rd 2012 @ 12:24pm
          The Greatest Game Of All said | April 23rd 2012 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

          Why dont we just induct the whole Dragons side from their 11 in a row era, Bath, Smith, Clay, King, Lumsden, Walsh, Provan, lets put the whole friggin lot in there. Why not, Gasnier, Langlands and Raper are already there!

          Just call the Team of the Century “The Immortals” and leave it at that, surely you can not get better than being inducted into the Team of the Century?………………………. Team of the Millenium? Team of the Milky Way Galaxy? GET A GRIP!

          • Roar Guru

            April 23rd 2012 @ 12:43pm
            steve b said | April 23rd 2012 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

            ah yeah ok, you need help !

            • April 23rd 2012 @ 1:00pm
              The Greatest Game Of All said | April 23rd 2012 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

              Hmm ok, what are you 12 years old?

              • Roar Guru

                April 23rd 2012 @ 1:11pm
                steve b said | April 23rd 2012 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

                No mate but i cant say what i would like to.Your negitive comments are what i objected to , didnt your mummy teach if you cant anything nice dont say anything . GOOSE!

          • April 23rd 2012 @ 5:04pm
            mushi said | April 23rd 2012 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

            So no player who’s peak came after 2007 is allowed to ever be considered for the highest accolade?

            Wow I can see you’ve thought this through.

            • April 23rd 2012 @ 6:11pm
              The Greatest Game Of All said | April 23rd 2012 @ 6:11pm | ! Report

              I have actually, so who does deserve to be inducted since 2007? Who is the equal or better than the current Immortals? Johns? fair enough, Mal misses out, Locky not eligible.

              What about the next induction four years from now, Lockyer? Mal misses out again, Alfie close third.

              Four years on again, no one from that period is deemed up to standard, so lets put Mal and Alfie in, see what I mean?

    • Roar Guru

      April 23rd 2012 @ 8:43am
      steve b said | April 23rd 2012 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      My uncle reckons that Ken Irvine was the best winger he had ever seen and that he would make the wingers of today look like they were standing still .And he would know he was a winger who played against him back in the day .

      • Columnist

        April 23rd 2012 @ 9:14am
        David Lord said | April 23rd 2012 @ 9:14am | ! Report

        I totally agree with your uncle steve b. Ken was greased lightning off even a standing start, and you never tired of seeing him score so many spine-tingling tries. A crowd-pleaser every time he took to the field.

    • April 23rd 2012 @ 9:19am
      mushi said | April 23rd 2012 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      My only issue is wingers are finishers. They, more than any other position on the field rely on their team to present them with the opportunity to execute. That said if any winger is going to be in there I’d have Irvine.

      But we’ve got to keep reminding ourselves the beauty of the immortals is the exclusivity. There will be countless Australian captains and guys who at one point or another in their careers were considered close to the best player in the game that will never be inducted.

    • April 23rd 2012 @ 9:38am
      Col Quinn said | April 23rd 2012 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      It seems as though you are quoting Wikipedia in relation to Ken’s Dubbo Gift run. According to Percy Mason, in Professional Athletics in Australia, and Reg Austin, the Dubbo Gift was 100 yards handicap race. Ken was running off scratch, the full 100 yards. He broke at the start and was penalised 1 yard. Ken ran the 101 yards in 9.3 secs, which broke Jack Donaldson 60 year old record and meant that Ken would have run 100 metres in slightly under 10.1 secs.

      I still have memories of Ken’s sheer speed and acceleration. Even though Mike Cleary beat Ken in several match races, I can still remember Ken taking on Mike, at North Sydney Oval, and beating Mike on the outside to score in the corner. There is not one player in either League or Union, I have seen, that shows the acceleration or top speed that Ken displayed at his peak.

      If he had run in last years Fastest Footballer race in 2010, Ken would have crossed the line, had time to turn around and watch the other finish and probably light up a smoke to boot.

      Why inst? he an immortal

    • April 23rd 2012 @ 10:04am
      Matt_S said | April 23rd 2012 @ 10:04am | ! Report

      Totally agree, Bevan should be the next immortal. He covers all the important indicators
      -try scoring machine- the most actually
      -played in a comp equal if not better than the NSWRL
      -played rep football for Other Nationalities who played against the best national teams of the time (France, England, NZ, Wales etc)
      -already has a bronze statue in his honour

      Go the Great Bev!!

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